At this critical time for pollinator health globally, a regional effort has been formed to address the challenges that pollinators face. The Adirondack Pollinator Project is a new partnership initiative led by ADKAction.org, with help from The Wild Center, the Lake Placid Land Conservancy, Local Living Venture, and Common Ground Gardens in Saranac Lake. Our mission is to build awareness, knowledge, and understanding about the global and local importance of pollinators across the Adirondack region, and to empower people to take individual and collective action to help pollinators thrive. We will launch during National Pollinator Week, which runs from June 19 - June 25, 2017 and organize events throughout the summer.
Ten years ago the United States Senate designated one week in June as National Pollinator Week. This action was a meaningful step in addressing the threat of declining pollinator populations. During Pollinator Week, we take a closer look at the industrious animals that help sustain biodiversity and put food on our tables. Since its inception, Pollinator Week has grown into an international celebration of the bees, birds, bats, and beetles (and many other creatures) that provide this invaluable ecosystem service.
The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge is a campaign to register a million pollinator-friendly landscapes. Pollinators are responsible for 1 out of 3 bites of food we take each day. But the animals we depend on to put meals on the table and sustain our ecosystem are in decline. In the face of this challenge, thousands of people have planted pollinator-friendly landscapes. More flowers means more nectar and pollen, crucial food sources for the animals we rely on. Plant your own garden of native flowering plants, and join the community that has decided to take action in the face of adversity.
Help scientists track the diversity of bumble bees across North America. Your observations are invaluable as researchers monitor the health of these critical pollinators. It’s a snap to get involved; upload photos of a bumble bee, identify it using simple instructions, and that’s it. Experts will confirm your identification, and your data will contribute to important scientific research.
"Ever since I was a child I have marveled at this spectacle of nature, which is powerful evidence that life is a miracle. We must remain committed to the conservation of these fragile creatures and their threatened habitats."
— Felipe Calderón, President of Mexico, 2012 (born in Morelia, Mexico near the discovered butterfly sanctuaries)
Just as pollinators are diverse the habitats needed to sustain them must also be diverse. There are several ways to plant a pollinator garden. Here we will discuss how to plant using seeds. Seeds are a cost and care effective method for attracting pollinators. Even if you don’t have a lot of land no area is too small to plant a pollinator garden. Seed packets range in size from covering a 3’ x 4’ area to acres. Be sure when choosing seed packets to look for native perennial species. Then check the hardiness zone to make sure you are planting seeds meant for your climate. Let’s get started.
When to plant: In Spring after the danger of frost or in summer up to two months before frost.
How to plant: Find a sunny location (that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day) and remove existing plant growth. Scatter seeds evenly, compress into soil. Do not cover. Keep moist until seedlings are 6-8” high. After they are established they prefer minimal care.
Tagging a fluttering insect that weighs only a few grams is pretty difficult. This was a challenge that Fred and Norah Urquhart had to overcome in their journey to track monarchs.
After spending years trying to figure out a way to successfully tag the monarchs, a tedious process because their wings are very delicate and moisture-sensitive, Fred and Norah finally had a breakthrough in 1940. Thanks to a recent innovation that created the sticky material we now use on post-it notes, they created a tag with a similar material that managed to stick. Once they began tagging huge scores of monarchs the two soon realized they were going to need some help.
Fred and Norah founded the very first Insect Migration Association, known today as Monarch Watch, enlisting thousands of volunteer “citizen scientists” all across North America to tag hundreds of thousands of butterflies. The intention was to track the tagged monarch’s migration routes. In 1975, this ultimately helped Dr. Urquhart find out that these monarchs migrated from Canada to the forests of Central Mexico.
Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed plants. They lay their eggs on them because they are the only food the monarch caterpillars eat. Monarch numbers are declining, partly due to the loss of open spaces where milkweeds grow. You can help give monarchs a boost by creating a milkweed garden. What’s the best way to encourage monarchs to turn your backyard into a nursery? Offer them food, drink, a place to stay and a milkweed patch where they can leave their eggs. Here is how to set up your own monarch stopover.
Plant native flowering plants. Many butterflies and native flowering plants have co-evolved over time and depend on each other for reproduction and survival.
Include host plants. Butterflies lay their eggs on specific plants called hosts. Monarchs only lay their eggs on milkweed so it is critical to include native milkweed plants in your butterfly garden. Monarchs will lay their eggs on the leaves and the young caterpillars feed on the plant. The milkweed contains toxins called cardiac glycosides that the caterpillars must ingest, which causes the monarch butterflies and caterpillars to be poisonous to most predators. Milkweed flowers make a colorful splash in gardens, meadows, and other habitats. There are over 100 different milkweed species and monarchs use about 30 species so visit plantmilkweed.org to learn what species to plant in your region.
If you can provide blooming flowers all summer long that will lure more butterflies. Monarchs need nectar from flowers all the time so choose plants that bloom in early, mid, and late summer.
Butterflies also need a place to rest. Flat stones offer them a place to bask in the sun and rest. Avoid insecticides because they kill insects. Include water. Butterflies can often be found puddling – drinking water and extracting minerals from damp areas of the ground. If you put coarse sand in a shallow pan and add it to your habitat butterflies will use it to drink and collect the minerals they need – make sure to keep it moist by adding water.
Widely recognized as the world’s foremost expert on monarch butterflies, Professor Lincoln Brower of Sweet Briar College came to The Wild Center in August of 2016 to talk about the monarch migration.
The event was made possible by the generous support of AdkAction.org and by Wild Center supporters.
Travel with the BBC to witness Monarchs crowding in one of their winter homes.
Watch this brief New York Times video about the University of Connecticut's research on hummingbird tongues